German prosecutors "have indicted" F1 CEO BERNIE ECCLESTONE on a bribery charge, according to the BBC. The charge relates to a $44M payment to German banker GERHARD GRIBKOWSKY of Bayern Landesbank, "linked to the sale of a stake in F1." Ecclestone "denies bribing Gribkowsky," and says that the money was intended to stop the banker from exposing him to a U.K. tax inquiry (BBC, 7/17). In London, Blitz, Bryant & Chassany reported Ecclestone said, "I have just spoken to my lawyers and they have received an indictment. It’s being translated into English." Asked how he responded to the indictment, Ecclestone said, "We are defending it properly. It will be an interesting case. It’s a pity it’s happened." Sven Thomas, a lawyer for Ecclestone, "confirmed receiving the indictment from Munich prosecutors, which specifies claims of aiding and abetting breach of trust and of bribery." The Munich court said that "no decision was likely on whether to hear the case before the middle of September," giving Ecclestone’s defense team until mid-August to submit its response to the indictment (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/17). In another article, Blitz & Chassany reported it is not just German prosecutors "chasing" Ecclestone through the courts. BayernLB is threatening court action over the '05 sale, while Constantin Medien, which was "entitled to a payment from BayernLB in the event of the bank selling its stake," has begun proceedings. Also, a would-be F1 buyer has "served a writ" against Ecclestone. (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/17).
COSTLY CONSEQUENCES: Also in London, Paul Weaver reported Ecclestone has said that "he could be removed from his position in charge of F1 if found guilty." But, in a sense, "his guilt or otherwise is not the problem for F1 right now." It is the prospect of Ecclestone "being dragged through long months of court proceedings, a major distraction as the sport plans a flotation in Singapore" (GUARDIAN, 7/17). BLOOMBERG's Karin Matussek reported CVC spokesperson JAMES OLLEY said that the private equity group "had no immediate comment about Ecclestone being indicted." The company is not part of the investigation and has said that it did not know about any bribery payments in the deal (BLOOMBERG, 7/17). REUTERS' Irene Preisinger reported the case "could mean a further delay to tentative plans to float Formula One on the stock market in Singapore and will revive speculation about an eventual successor to the man who turned the sport into a major global business" (REUTERS, 7/17). In London, Simon Cass reported speaking in a recent interview about the prospect of being locked up, Ecclestone said, "I am not guilty of anything except being got at. But if I get sent to jail, I will have to deal with it. I don't think I will like it very much. But you have to get on with things" (DAILY MAIL, 7/17).
Former HRT Team Principal COLIN KOLLES tried to blackmail Mercedes Motorsport Dir TOTO WOLFF earlier this year, according to MOTORSPORT. A conversation between Wolff and a then-unnamed former F1 team boss was "secretly recorded" and then threatened to be used against him. German newspaper Bild reported Wolff spoke negatively about his own boss, ROSS BRAWN, colleague NIKI LAUDA, and also Daimler Chair DIETER ZETSCHE, "whilst divulging details of his clashing co-ownership of the Williams team." Wolff had reportedly "been taped in mid February this year by former HRT and Force India boss Kolles, in Barcelona." Kolles then "threatened to release the details of their explosive conversation unless he paid a sum of money." Wolff and Kolles "have settled their dispute with the intervention" of F1 CEO BERNIE ECCLESTONE, while Mercedes "has obtained a court order preventing the publication of the details of the conversation" (MOTORSPORT, 7/17).
Russian Premier League Dynamo Moscow President GENNADY SOLOVYOV has been replaced by billionaire BORIS ROTENBERG. Rotenberg, 56, with an estimated wealth of $1.4B and part of a family of tycoons who made their money in banking and construction linked to oil and gas, "was appointed by the board." It is "unclear if he will spend any of his millions on improving the club, whose majority shareholder and chief sponsor is currently state bank VTB" (R-SPORT, 7/17). ... Great Britain has named senior men's national hockey team assistant coach DOUG CHRISTIANSEN as head coach, replacing TONY HAND. Christiansen "will combine the role with his new job as coach of Elite League side Sheffield Steelers" (SPORTSBEAT, 7/17). ... Hockey India League announced the appointment of TODD FAULDS as its director competitions. Faulds is currently representing Hockey Australia on Continental Federation Committees and has also been Project Administrator at Sports Technology Int'l in '10 and Business Developer at Grassports Australia (Hockey India). ... National Rugby League club Parramatta Eels has named General Manager of Operations MATT PHELAN as acting CEO less than 24 hours after KEN EDWARDS left the club. Phelan joined the Eels in February and has more than 20 years of experience in sports administration (Parramatta).
Former tennis player MARTINA HINGIS "will come out of retirement" to play her first match on the WTA Tour since '07. The 32-year-old "has accepted a wildcard to play doubles" with Slovakian DANIELA HANTUCHOVA at the Southern California Open in Carlsbad later this month (BBC, 7/16). ... NBA player CHRIS BOSH "is confident that basketball will catch up with other sports in India in popularity," but conceded that cricket "will remain number one in fan following just like American football is in his home country." Bosh: "I don't think it (basketball) will be the most popular sport (in India). Even in America, it is not the most popular sport. American football will always be the king. But that does not mean a lot of people won't like it. I think cricket will always be the national sport" (PTI, 7/17). ... Barcelona footballer ANDRES INIESTA "is to have a bronze statue of him unveiled in his birthplace of Fuentealbilla on Friday" (FOOTBALL ESPANA, 7/17). ... Englishman STEPHEN CONSTANTINE is said to be the front runner to succeed Jamaica national football team head coach THEODORE WHITMORE. Constantine has managed the national sides of Nepal ('99-01), India ('02-05), Malawi ('07-08) and Sudan in '09. He "has been first team coach of the English Championship side Millwall" since the '05-06 season (JAMAICA OBSERVER, 7/17). ... Delhi & District Cricket Association Joint Secretary RAVIN JAIN was on Monday appointed Indian cricket team manager for the upcoming tour of Zimbabwe (ASIAN AGE, 7/17). ... Fitness adviser CHRIS XUEREB, who works with Jamaican sprinters ASAFA POWELL and SHERONE SIMPSON, has denied providing performance-enhancing drugs and said that "they should take responsibility for their failed dope tests." Xuereb: "It is time the athletes took responsibility for their doping instead of looking around for a scapegoat, whether that person is their therapist, bartender or anyone else" (REUTERS, 7/17).
NOTABLE DEATH: Great Britain Olympic Silver Medalist TODD BENNETT "has died at the age of 51 after battling cancer." Bennett, who was born in Southampton, won a Silver Medal in the 4x400m relay at the 1984 L.A. Olympics along with KRISS AKABUSI, GARRY COOK and PHILIP BROWN (BBC, 7/17). ...